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Safety in parks and forests

Parks and forests are wild places with hidden dangers for the unwary visitor, especially tourists unfamiliar with local conditions. It is vital to pay close attention to signs that warn of local dangers. Follow these tips to stay safe and have an enjoyable visit:

  • Be prepared. Plan your trip carefully. Make sure your camping equipment, vehicle and boat are in good working condition. Take a well stocked first-aid kit and wet weather gear. Before you visit, check park alerts for information relating to camping, track closures and fire restrictions.
  • Be weather aware. Queensland is vulnerable to extreme weather events including severe storms, cyclones and floods. For weather forecasts and warnings see the Bureau of Meteorology website.
  • Drive carefully. Before you visit, check current road and traffic conditions. Follow normal road rules wherever you are driving. Watch for oncoming traffic and pedestrians and share the road. Pull off the road before stopping to take photographs. Take special care when driving on sand.
  • Take care near water. Swim with extreme caution. Creeks have submerged rocks and become treacherous following heavy rain. Never attempt to cross or swim in flooded creeks. Rapidly rising water and swift currents can be treacherous. Only swim at patrolled beaches. People have been seriously injured or died diving or jumping into rock pools, lakes, creeks and the sea. Supervise your children closely around water. Avoid marine stingers in the sea during the warmer months. Take care to avoid marine stingers in tropical waters. Never swim or enter water where crocodiles may live.
  • Stay on the track. You may get lost if you leave the road or walking track. Take a map if possible and follow markers and signs carefully. Let someone responsible know your plans in case you get lost. Carry a charged mobile phone and personal locator beacon if walking off-track. For more information see walk safely.
  • Watch your step. Stay well back from cliff edges and waterfalls. Cliff edges may crumble and rocks near waterfalls may be slippery. Climbing waterfalls and taking selfies near waterfalls or cliff edges is not worth it; don't ruin your life or become a statistic. Always stay behind safety fences to avoid tragedy. Never ignore safety signs and restrictions designed to keep you safe.
  • Be wary of wild animals. Stay well back from goannas, crocodiles, snakes, dingoes, cassowaries, feral pigs, cattle, horses and buffaloes. People have been seriously injured or killed by wild animals. Be very careful about approaching any injured animal, such as kangaroos or possums. They are likely to bite and scratch if you attempt to touch or move them.
  • Never feed, handle or play with wildlife. You may get bitten or scratched. Human foods may be harmful to wild animals. Animals can become aggressive towards people when fed. Be aware also that animals can transmit disease (Zoonotic diseases). Avoiding close contact with animals, animal carcasses, birth products or excreta, and being careful not to inhale dust from areas where animals congregate, are two of the best ways to reduce the chances that you might be infected. Zoonotic disease is naturally present to some level in all outdoor environments or similar settings. Your medical practitioner and Queensland Health can provide further information to help you stay safe when visiting these settings.
  • Avoid bites, stings and scratches. Wear protective clothing and insect repellent to protect yourself from stings, scratches and insect bites, especially bites from ticks. Detour around snakes; never provoke them.
  • Take care near fire. Supervise children near open fires. Always put campfires out with water, not sand. Sand retains heat and people have been severely burnt when fires have been concealed with sand.
  • Beware of bushfires. If there is a bushfire, follow the track to the nearest road, beach, lake or creek for refuge. Large logs, a ditch or burnt ground can also provide protection in some situations. Avoid areas of heavy fuel, such as deep leaf litter or thick vegetation, and stay low to the ground where the air is coolest and contains the least smoke. In high fire danger conditions, walking tracks and other areas may be closed. It is essential for your safety to follow the instructions on signs in these conditions. If you see a bushfire, please alert a ranger or the police as soon as possible.
  • Be sun-smart. Wear a hat, shirt and sunscreen, even on overcast days, to avoid sunburn. Drink frequently to avoid dehydration.
  • Think before you drink. Even mountain streams can be contaminated by Giardia and other organisms that cause diarrhoea. Take your own water supply if possible. If you must use water from creeks or lakes, boil it for at least five minutes, filter it or treat it chemically before you drink it. Never assume tap water in parks is safe to drink.
  • Take care of your property and personal safety. Thefts and assaults can occur in parks and forests as well as in cities. Carry few valuables when visiting, leave no valuables in parked cars, and lock your car when you leave it. Never walk alone. Walk in a group or within sight of people.

Emergency contacts

  • Dial triple zero (000) in an emergency.
  • Do not rely on your mobile or cell phone.
  • Consider taking a satellite phone to areas without mobile phone coverage.
Last updated
1 August 2018